This tag is for questions regarding formal, versus informal words and usage.

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5
votes
5answers
3k views

Has “may” become a formal version of “can”?

When I went to school I was taught that when asking for something you use "may I (have/do something)". "Can" was used only when asking if you are "physically capable" of something. These days I have ...
2
votes
7answers
10k views

Usage of the phrase “you don't know what you don't know”

What is the correct usage of phrase "you don't know what you don't know"? Can it be used in formal conversation/writing?
19
votes
4answers
3k views

Avoiding stuffy language: “Therefore”, “Thus”

In my thesis, I'm using "thus" and "therefore" a lot. This is repetitive and it sounds stuffy. Is there any alternative which sounds a bit more relaxed but is acceptable in scientific writing? "So" ...
11
votes
2answers
244k views

Formally introducing yourself in an email

I am composing an email to a work associate who I have never had any dealings with before. I'm struggling to think of a formal yet succinct way of introducing myself. In person, I would probably say: ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

How and when to use “wont”

I stumbled upon this word lately, as in he was wont to come early I'm wondering what feeling it has for native speakers. For example, can I use in a meeting, or in a written report?
9
votes
16answers
3k views

Informal terms for money amounts

What informal terms are used in English as money amounts? I know the following US terms and I'm curious about the rest: a grand: 1000 dollars a buck: 1 dollar
6
votes
3answers
40k views

What is a more formal way to say “Don't get me wrong”?

I think the phrase "Don't get me wrong" in conversation means, "I'm about to say something that you might misunderstand, so don't." I'm looking for a similar phrase that sounds better when speaking ...
22
votes
5answers
3k views

Does America have its Versions of U- and Non-U English?

In Britain and most of Europe, some form of U-speak exists: old-money language has certain features that distinguish it from other language. In Dutch, it doesn't really have a name, but it is still ...
20
votes
9answers
120k views

Using “dear”, “darling”, or “honey” to address a friend

As far as I know dear, darling, and honey are commonly used between lovers, but I suppose there are more words like that. What else is commonly used? Which of these can be used to address a ...
18
votes
8answers
2k views

Is there a term for ascribing acts of the human mind to non-human objects, and when is it appropriate to do this?

Nota bene: English isn't my native language, so when I say acts of the human mind, I attempt to generalize things such as making assumptions, drawing conclusions and (to some extent) to reject. To me ...
12
votes
4answers
15k views

Is “embiggen” considered a formal or slang word?

If my memory serves me correctly, I first encountered the word embiggen a year or so ago. I thought it seemed odd, but in context, the meaning was quite obvious. Since that time I've seen this word ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it okay to start a sentence with a Greek letter (variable)?

Is it okay to start a sentence with a variable? Do I need to rewrite a sentence just because the subject is typeset as a Greek letter? For example: Φ is treated in a special way. vs. ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

“Pretty” as an adverb

How correct/common/proper is "pretty" as an adverb? It is hard for me to see, since it's my native dialect, but I say "pretty often" pretty often, and "fairly often" fairly rarely. Does "pretty" mark ...
7
votes
7answers
1k views

Meaning of “No, yes …”

I'm not sure if this is something only Americans say, but it has confused me for a long time. If someone is asked a question why do some people respond with something like, "No, yes it was"? What does ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

Appropriate use of “app” vs “application”

Can app serve as an accepted abbreviation for application in formal contexts? Is there some context where app is more accepted (for example, when talking about mobile applications)?
6
votes
6answers
12k views

“Important” and “significant”

"Important" and "significant" seems to be very close in meaning when denoting that something matters much. But am I right in thinking that "important" is less formal word than "significant"? And ...
5
votes
7answers
509 views

“Would you mind and do something” in nonstandard colloquial AmEng

Does Would you mind and do something instead of Would you mind doing something sound acceptable in spoken AmEng, or is it an attempt to imitate or render colloquial speech in not so formal writing? ...
5
votes
4answers
63k views

Does the phrase “who's in?” or “I'm in!” exist in (informal) English?

I really think I've heard it in some American sitcom/sitcoms, meaning something like participating in. "I want to play football. Who's in?" — "Great idea, I'm in!" Does it really exist, or am I wrong? ...
3
votes
5answers
16k views

Is using “have” better than using “got” in the following sentence?

Take a gander at the following two versions of the same sentence: "I got an mp4 video file" vs. "I have an mp4 video file" Someone 'corrected' me by changing the first form to the second ...
2
votes
6answers
28k views

More formal way to say “just in case”

I thought "provisionally" was what I was looking for, as in: "As a provisional measure, I'd like someone with Volkswagen Corporate to follow up with me next week." What I really mean is: "Just in ...
-5
votes
4answers
256 views

Adjectival “Anglican” for “English”, and “Anglicanism” for “Anglomania” in AmE

Harrap's New Shorter French and English Dictionary, Ed. 1985 [Harrap's Shorter French Dictionary], points up adjectival "Anglican" as an Americanism for "English", and "Anglicanism" as an AmE ...
13
votes
5answers
220k views

What is the male equivalent of “mistress” in formal English?

The mistress definition, Oxford dictionary a woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, esp. with a married man I am looking for the male equivalent of 'mistress' as defined above. Some ...
13
votes
6answers
6k views

Is there an informal way to describe a woman that can not have a baby?

"Infertile"; "fruitless"? How would you describe such a woman in an informal talk to your friend?
11
votes
1answer
2k views

When did “ain't” become slang?

In Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, there are several places where "ain't" is used instead of "am not", such as: "I ain't afraid of him, if you mean that," continued Lord Nidderdale. — ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a non-colloquial equivalent term for “cool”?

As I get older (into my 30s) the less I feel like using youthful slang, and I take extra pride in using professional English. But I can't think of a word that is universally equivalent to the ...
6
votes
7answers
7k views

Is using the last name of a person without a title an accepted way of addressing?

I always heard people use Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms before people's names and that is how, I thought, it was done until I watched one of those Harry Potter films in which Malfoy (Sr) addresses Albus Dumbledore ...
6
votes
7answers
5k views

More formal synonyms of “snob”

To me, the word snob seems rather informal, although it appears in dictionaries, and I am unable to find anywhere on the internet a more formal word than snob. Are there any sophisticated synonyms ...
5
votes
2answers
17k views

I'd rather not [do something] vs I'd prefer not to [do something]

In this question the issue came up as to whether there's any difference in the level of politeness/correctness involved in I'd rather not say as opposed to I'd prefer not to say. My own gut feeling ...
5
votes
3answers
3k views

Is an ampersand formal?

I've noticed that there are many companies whose names contain an ampersand. A quick Google search for "& Sons, Inc", or something similar, should yield countless examples. Though it's not ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

'Therefore' in an illogical logic sense

I have a co-worker that is always saying "Therefore, A B C" when the "A B C" isn't a conclusion from any sort of deductive reasoning. For example, Me: ... thus, that's how it works. Her: I ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Is ‘Yes-ish’ a perfect alternative to Yes, or is it 'Yes ‘on condition’? Is it received English?

I found a word ‘Yes-ish’ in the answer (from PLL) to my question about the meaning of ‘Stuck to the script’ I posted today. As it is quite new to my ear, I consulted with Wikipedia before logging out ...
3
votes
3answers
5k views

Is “I'm dead serious” formal?

In a movie I heard an actor saying "I'm dead serious". I looked up the dictionary and found that "dead" in this context means "really". Is it formal? Can we use it in business meetings?
2
votes
1answer
95 views

Common ways to tell the time

I'm a non-native speaker. In school, I was taught that the proper way of telling times in English is X o' clock. In NAE, would it be common to omit o' clock and just say something like: It's ...
2
votes
1answer
794 views

Are “kinda”, “sorta”, “oughta” and “sposta” acceptable in formal writing?

I get that sorta, kinda, sorta-kinda (this one I quite like though) oughta and sposta imitate speech but it still niggles me to find them "in print", especially when the overall tone is formal. ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Is 'acronymise/ze' a word? Is it used only colloquially, if at all?

I just sent a text to a friend, who didn't understand an acronym I used for a game: "Ah, I said it in a previous text so thought it was ok to abbreviate it." Though, since it was an acronym I ...
2
votes
2answers
684 views

Word or phrase for mere coincidence that brings happiness

I wish to state that my exposure to a certain area was a mere coincidence, and I am happy about the area. Moreover, I want to convey the idea that the incident was like a fairytale, something no one ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Swearing: “bollixed”

The House Ethics Committee has now hired an outside counsel to investigate its own bollixed investigation into the conduct of Representative Maxine Waters. (“The House’s Farcical ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

When did the valediction 'best regards' come into use?

Best regards seems to be quite a popular valediction used in business emails, along with variants kind regards, or just regards. The spoken expression "give him my regards" would appear to be a ...
1
vote
1answer
163 views

Acceptability of Gonna, Wanna [closed]

How acceptable is it to use wanna, gonna, etc in business or more formal US environments?
1
vote
1answer
199 views

“who” or “whom” as a relative pronoun - not always so easy [duplicate]

I take it for granted we all know when to use the relative pronouns "who" and "whom". And we also know that since the early nineteenth century there has been a steady decline in the use of "whom" ...
1
vote
3answers
6k views

What is the formal way to say “a bit”?

What is the formal way to say a bit in an essay, for example, in the sentence beginning “It is a bit different from”? Is a little formal enough?
1
vote
1answer
495 views

Which valediction should I use with my boss?

I work as a freelancer for a company and I do most of my communication via e-mails. My boss usually ends his mails with "cheers" whereas I always use "regards". Are there any alternatives to ...
0
votes
1answer
30 views

usage of dissimilar

This sentence is grammatically correct. But does it make sense to use word dissimilar to avoid repetition of different here? the results would be absolutely dissimilar if there is any slight ...
0
votes
2answers
171 views

“the below-identified person”: Term for this style and any style guides regarding

Are there any technical terms to specifically describe the two styles (A and B) below? Also, are there any prescriptive style guides that say which is preferable? My own preference is for style B ...
0
votes
1answer
9k views

App or app? When I refer to it in a formal paper

In Android contexts, should the 'a' in 'app' be uppercase always or lowercase?
0
votes
0answers
50 views

Which form of address in motivation letter? [duplicate]

I am writing a motivation letter for a university in London, and I wanted to know which form of address is common? Dear Sir or Madam To whom it may concern Thanks in advance.
0
votes
1answer
2k views

Is this a complete sentence?

There was an ad on telly I saw, saying Relax, knowing your home is safe Is this a complete sentence that is grammatically correct? Could this go in an essay? What is the technical word for ...
0
votes
2answers
3k views

“You're not” vs. “you ain't” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What does “ain't” mean? What's the difference between "you're not" and "you ain't" ("...coming home")? I do realize that ain't is a contraction of are ...
-1
votes
1answer
2k views

What complimentary close to use in continuous formal email?

I am a student in contact with a business owner, and I am having a hard time deciding on a complimentary close. Should I use it for every email I send him? I don't want to make it redundant since it ...